Women across the world are entitled to extra price for their womanhood. Women in Bangladesh perhaps pays some extra just to bleed naturally! Here, words like tampons and menstruation cups are rarely heard off, sanitary pads are things from the medicine shops that is bought and brought with utmost secrecy. Majority of the women uses a piece of cloth from their old dresses and reuse those clothes by drying them under another cloth, only to maintain the secrecy of their menstruation. Where the menstruation aiding objects are subject to secrecy, we can only imagine the status of menstruation itself!
Menstruation maintained with proper hygiene has virtually no impact on daily routine. However, when suppressed and not dealt with proper care maintaining menstrual hygiene, it could turn into barriers for women to limit their movement and curb out routine activities. Menstruation being a taboo for mature women, we can only imagine what sort of nightmare it would for school going girls. A significant number of girls skip school during period due to the difficulties in managing menstruation cycle. Embarrassment, lack of infrastructure for menstrual hygiene and inability to afford sanitary napkins bars these young women to go to their school during period. Most of the academic institutions do not have the facility to let the girls maintain their menstrual hygiene within the school compound. Most the schools do not provide sanitary products and proper disposal place for girls to stop worrying about menstruation and pay full attention to their studies. As a result, the girls pay for their menstruation by missing out important lesson and attaining poor grades. For some, initiation of menstruation is the inauguration of countdown for them to drop out from the schools. Signs of bleeding is also sign for some ignorant parents to marry their girl off.
From a recent study, it shows that out of 43 million menstruating women, 9 out 10 women do not use adequate and appropriate sanitary products during period. The primary substitute for sanitary pad is either a piece of old cloth, a pile of cotton or in some cases, tissue papers. Usage of such unhygienic products leads to many gynecological complications. Though women from all walks of life suffer during their period, women working outside suffers the most. Especially in human labor-oriented workplaces, where every minute is linked with wages, menstruation comes as a nightmare for the women employed in such jobs.
Girls and women in Bangladesh do not speak about menstrual hygiene and most do not have access to hygienic sanitary pads because of affordability. In some parts of the country, monthly periods are secret and shameful things. There are hundreds of misconceptions and beliefs regarding menstruation in Bangladesh. Used menstrual clothes are believed to be a point of attraction for evil spirit. It is also believed that a mere touch from a woman in period can spoil food and water. Menstruating women are barred from touching food, cooking utensils and even the kitchen. From religious point of view, women in period are barred from entering holy places. Such superstition and misconception are forcing women to pay a higher price just for being women. Also, the price range for menstrual hygiene products are barring our women from easing their periods and maintain menstrual hygiene. 8 out of 10 girls in Bangladesh do not use sanitary pad, tampon or menstruation cup. 35% of the girls may remain absent during their periods. On average, school girl remains absent for 2.8 days per menstruation cycle. Only a handful was found to be accepting menstruation to be a normal routine in nature. Though all women bleed, only a 36% of the young women in Bangladesh has proper idea of menstruation prior to their very first experience of period.
Sanitary pads, with 78.5% percent using rags and 1% using cotton wool during their periods. The prevalence of school absenteeism was (35.1%) among school-going adolescent girls in Bangladesh. Among schoolgirls who reached menarche, 41% (931) reported missing school, an average of 2.8 missed days per menstrual cycle. Over 80% of Bangladeshi women and girls use old cloth to manage their menstruation. Many girls consider the menstrual period to be an illness and due to the lack of awareness, about 85% students use old clothes during menstruation, only 36% know about menstruation before menarche (the first occurrence of menstruation). In Bangladesh, of the 47,199,313 girls and women who have their periods every month only 8,023,859 use proper sanitary napkins। young girls have their first period at the age of 11.8
From a survey conducted by UNICEF, about how Bangladeshi women manage menstruation, it was found that at least one third hide their rags in dirty places. One in three girls fail to change their cloths frequently or wash them with soap after use. Only just over half of the women dried their rags outside and in full sun — the conditions required to kill bacteria. Low standards of menstrual hygiene led to widespread vaginal and urinary infections. To make matters worse, women and girls in poor families tend not to seek medical help, even for serious infections. The 2004 Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey found that over half of women follow their husband's say on whether to seek medical treatment. Even if the man decides that his wife or daughter needs medical care, one third of women cannot travel alone to a hospital or health center. On top of this is a reluctance to discuss reproductive health issues. So, women suffering from vaginal infection rarely receive treatment. This makes the prevention of such infections by education particularly important, especially among those in poorer and less educated families where all taboos and inhibitions are at their strongest. To make matters worse, women and girls in poor families tend not to seek medical help, even for serious infections. The 2004 Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey found that over half of women follow their husband's say on whether to seek medical treatment. Even if the man decides that his wife or daughter needs medical care, one third of women cannot travel alone to a hospital or health center.
Despite all odds, situation is changing a bit. Initiatives like 'Sokhipad' is aiming to enable 720000 low-income women to afford hygienic sanitary pads. Sanitary pad brands are coming up with vending machines and equipping public toilets with sanitary pads. Compliance issues are strictly maintained in export-oriented factories, ensuring improved menstrual hygiene for employees. However, such initiatives are just a beacon of hope, we have lot to go before making womanhood hygienic and affordable. We have a lot to do, enabling women to deal their period like any other day. To achieve such feat, we need to invest more in making menstruation sanitary items more affordable by lowering the duties and taxes. Our building code should incorporate developing proper infrastructure for enabling women to enjoy a hygienic period. Places like academic institutions and labor-oriented workplace must maintain a strict compliance policy to make women feel the appropriate comfort and hygiene required for a menstrual cycle. Women are already paying an unwanted premium, at least we can do is make menstruation comfortable in anywhere she wishes to be.
We bleed for 5 days a month and we don't die and man can have children for that! At least we can't be called unholy, unworthy and unreliable for sure!
Tanziral Dilshad Ditan, Brand Marketing Expert and Social Actor